Arraignment - A proceeding in which an individual who is accused of committing a crime is brought into court, told of the charges, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.
Accessory A person who helps or assists in the commission of a crime, either before or after the fact. Classic examples of accessory would be the person who acts as a lookout for a burglary or the getaway driver for a bank robbery.
Bail: An amount of money or security that is given to the court in order ensures that you will appear and not flee. The amount of bail is typically set by a judge and depends on the severity of charges and other factors. After a person is arrested, he is typically taken before a magistrate. In most cases if you are arrested after the court is closed, the magistrate will come to the police station set a bail. If that amount is too high or if no bail is set, a hearing may be held before a judge and a request for bail may be made at that time. A decision made by a district court or juvenile court judge may be appealed to the Circuit Court.
Circumstantial evidence - All evidence of an indirect nature. Testimony not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in controversy. For example: no one saw Santa leave toys at the house , but fingerprints taken from the glass of milk & cookies left near the presents were a match for Santa's fingerprints. Many people are criminally convicted on circustancial evidence alone.
Conviction - A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.
Dismissal without prejudice. A dismissal that permits the Commonwealth (state) to bring back the criminal charge again. Dismissal with prejudice bars the right to subsequently bring an action on the same cause.
Docket - A log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.
Felony . In Massachusetts Superior and District Courts, a felony is a major crime for which the penalty includes the imposition of a state prison sentence. A felony conviction requires you to provide a one-time DNA sample to the Massachusetts State Police Labs and you must pay the cost of giving this DNA Sample.
Fifth Amendment Among other rights, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that a person cannot be compelled to present self-incriminating testimony in a criminal (or juvenile) proceeding.
Fourteenth Amendment Among other matters, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without adequate due process.
Miranda Rule . The rule, pronounced the US Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona, that confessions are inadmissible in a criminal prosecution if the police do not advise the suspect in custody of certain rights before questioning. These warnings advise you that:
- You have the right to remain silent
- Any statement you make may be used against you
- You have the right to have a lawyer present when you are questioned
- If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before questioning begins
- If you waive your rights and speak with the police, your statement may be used as evidence against you.
Misdemeanor A minor offense, lower than a felony, which is punishable by a county jail term and or a fine but not a prison term.
Nolo Contendere – Latin term meaning “ no contest” . A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.
Probation - A sentencing alternative to imprisonment in which the court releases convicted defendants under supervision of a probation officer, who makes certain that the defendant follows certain rules (e.g., gets a job, gets drug counseling, etc.).
Pro Se - A Latin term meaning "on one's own behalf"; in courts, it refers to persons who acts as his own lawyer in their own case.
Sentence: If you are found guilty regardless of whether by plea, a jury trial, or trial by a judge without a jury ( bench trial) , it is the judge that impose the sentence if you are found guilty. Depending on the type of charge, the facts heard during trial, your past criminal record, and other factors, a judge may impose a sentence of a fine, a period of probation, some committed time to then be followed by a period of probation (this is known as a split sentence), or the Judge can give a sentence incarceration (jail of prison time depending on the offense).
Subpoena An official order to appear in court (or at a deposition) at a specific time. Failure to obey a subpoena to appear in court is punishable as a contempt of court.
Voir Dire - The process by which judges and lawyers select a trial jury from among those eligible to serve, by questioning them to make certain that they would fairly decide the case. "Voir dire" is a phrase meaning "to speak the truth."
Warrant - A written order authorizing official action by law enforcement officials, usually directing them to arrest the individual named in the warrant. A search warrant orders that a specific location be searched for items, which if found, can be used in court as evidence